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Missionaries of Kenya’s Oldest Order Lauded for “planting seed” that Continues to Flourish

The four Priests belonging to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) ordained May 7 at St. Austin’s Parish of Nairobi Archdiocese. Credit: ACI Africa

The first missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) to arrive in Kenya have been applauded for “planting a seed” that continues to thrive through many Kenyan natives who continue to join the Religious Order that is the oldest in the East African country.

In his homily during the Priestly ordination of four Spiritans at St. Austin’s Parish of Nairobi Archdiocese, Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde of Kenya’s Archdiocese of Mombasa said that the ordination venue was especially a reminder of the important work of evangelization that the first Spiritan missionaries did in Kenya and in many other African countries.

“This is a very unique and special Church, the first one in Kenya on this part of the world having been built by none other than the Holy Ghost fathers who came here in 1889, the first ones coming from France,” Archbishop Kivuva said in his homily on Friday, May 7.

He added in reference to the ordination event, “Such celebrations as this one helps us to remember the first missionaries in Kenya and especially for most of us who can still recall the heavy work of evangelization they did when they came. We remember that it took them three months to dock in Mombasa where they were welcomed before they proceeded to this part of the country.”

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“We want to thank and remember all those who have been called to the Lord and all those among us today who continue tirelessly to bring the Good News to us and all over the world,” the Kenyan Archbishop said, and added, “We give thanks to all our missionaries. You planted the seed of faith and it is flourishing as you can see.”

The four Deacons that were ordained Priests were Leonard Mulei Mutua, Wycliff Oluoch Oludhe, Timothy Tatu Mutie, and Laurence Momanyi Maraga.

In September last year, more than 20 Spiritans from six African countries were ordained Deacons in what signified a growth of vocations on the continent.

In his May 7 homily, Archbishop Kivuva commended the four Deacons he was about to ordain Priests for their readiness to go to places wherever their Superiors commissioned them without grumbling.

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He said, “I had an opportunity to speak to these Deacons yesterday and I heard that some of them have been to Lodwar, in France and at the end of it, they have come here to be ordained Priests. When I asked them where they were going, they said that they did not know; that wherever they would be sent by their superiors is the place they’d go.”

 “This is a wonderful way of being used by God,” the Archbishop said, and added, “They are an example for all of us that God wishes to use us all the time He has given us to spread His grace to other people.”

The Archbishop who also serves as the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) Vice Chairperson of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) said that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped the world to see various categories of people who are always willing to reach out to the poor.

“As we speak, at a time that the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to all corners of the world, we have seen different people coming out in various ways to help others,” he said, and added, “We have seen those with expertise such as doctors putting their lives on the line to support the poor and the sick. This is how God is sending each one of us.”

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The Local Ordinary of Mombasa Diocese who was ordained a Bishop in June 2003 warned the Deacons he was about to ordain Priests that they were bound to face a number of challenges but reassured them that with the support of everyone around them, they would succeed in their Priestly ministry.

“This particular step you’re taking is a commitment of life, just like in Holy Matrimony where one leaves their own home and joins their spouse in a different town, a different tribe and even a different nationality. It is a big jump,” Archbishop Kivuva told the four Spiritan Deacons.

In his appeal for the support of the Priests, he added, “That decision (to become Priests) needs support from elsewhere. They need support from their families, from the society, from the faithful you will be serving. That is how the Church works.”

He made reference to the Gospel passage in Matthew Chapter 10 where Jesus tells his disciples that he is sending them like sheep among wolves and told the four Deacons that their Priestly ministry is not going to be always rosy.

“We know it, that it is never easy. We know it is not a bed of roses,” the Archbishop who has been at the helm of Mombasa Archdiocese since February 2015 said, and explained, “As a Priest, you get a special opportunity to be close to Christ especially through prayer, through the Sacraments and through service to the poor.”

Priesthood, Archbishop Kivuva said, “is a call to follow the example of Christ who washed the feet of his disciples and told them to show the same love and service to others”

“Priesthood is not about ourselves. It’s not that because am a Priest, I have all the privileges. No. Now that you are a Priest, you have all the responsibility to serve,” the 69-year-old Archbishop said.

He added, addressing himself to the Deacons he was about to ordain Priests, “You now have all the responsibility to listen to all voices including the children, the youth, the mothers, not because you have everything but because they see you and they find comfort in knowing that you gave yourself as their brother, their father, and their friend.”

Speaking to the newly ordained Priests, the Archbishop encouraged challenged them, in the words of Pope Francis, to “smell like a sheep.”

“Have the smell of the sheep that you are shepherding. Accompany them in their various challenges, in their sickness and in their health and in their joy and tribulations,” he told the four new Kenyan Spiritan Priests.

Expressing his relationship with the Spiritans, Archbishop Kivuva said, “I don’t just come because I have been invited. I am also a member. Baptized by an Irish in Muthetheni (within Machakos Diocese), confirmed by a Spiritan Bishop in Mombasa... and the rest is history.”

He expressed his appreciation for the first missionaries in Kenya, saying, “Were it not for them, we wouldn’t be here.”

He further appealed to parents to support the vocations of their children desiring to join Religious Life saying that Africa is no longer relying on the missionaries from outside to grow the Church on the continent.

“I would like to remind our parents that Priests come from families,” he said, and explained, “In the past when we had missionaries, there was some thinking that they are manufactured somewhere in Ireland. But as you realize, they went back because of their own challenges.”

“We want to appreciate the encouragement in our families and for their generosity in this regard. And we know that when we give, we also receive. If you do good to others, you do it to yourself,” he said.

In his address at the ordination ceremony, Provincial Superior of the Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan, Fr. Dominic Gathurithu welcomed the newly ordained Priests in the family of the Holy Ghost Fathers, recognizing the Congregation’s presence around the world.

“As Missionaries, we are invited to spread the Gospel all over the world. That’s why you will find us here in Africa, in America, in Europe, in Asia and in Australia,” Fr. Gathurithu said, highlighting some of the places where the Spiritans serve.

He added, “As a Missionary congregation, we go everywhere we feel that the Church is in deep need of the people to serve the poor. Our goal is that all people get to know Christ and to be his followers.”

He expressed gratitude to God for seeing the Deacons through formation, their parents for supporting them in their call, and the various Spiritans who facilitated their Priestly and missionary formation, including the lay missionaries of the Congregation for joining hands to ensure that the four Deacons become Priests.

Fr. Leonard was commissioned to Malawi while Fr. Wycliff was commissioned to Belgium. The two other Priests, Fr. Timothy and Fr. Laurence, were appointed to serve in their native country, Kenya.